“I’ll never do that again.”
“I used to be addicted, but now I can limit myself to just one drink.”
Lies are a natural and virtually automatic way of life for addicts. As a result of denial and diseased thinking, addicts (often very convincingly) lie to their loved ones to keep them around, to the world to avoid stigmatization, and to themselves to preserve their drug habit. They lie about the big things and the small things – to feel important, to avoid rejection or judgment, to keep up appearances – until they’ve created a fantasy life that is far more tolerable than their current reality.
The dishonesty, though understandably hurtful to others, serves a purpose in the addict’s life. If they stopped lying, they’d have to quit drinking or using drugs and face a shameful pile of hurt they’ve inflicted on the people they love. That’s quite a load to bear, especially for the addict who is complacent about getting sober or who tries to face their past alone. It’s much easier to hide emotions, keep up the double life and continue using.
One unexpected benefit of finding your way into recovery is that you pretty quickly learn who your real friends are. During active addiction, you are ironically both socially isolated and part of a drug-abusing community. You may spend a lot of time together and feel a bond based on your shared preoccupation with drugs. But that doesn’t mean those people are your friends.
Not surprisingly, when an addict gets clean, their “friends” don’t always have their back. In fact, some become downright toxic to their recovery. Here are a few reasons the people you thought were your friends may end up sabotaging your recovery efforts:
• Addiction drives away most of an addict’s true friends.
• Whether they use drugs or not, your friends may not understand the disease of addiction. Even if they want to be supportive, many are in denial or don’t know how to stop enabling.
• Your sobriety spells the end of the friendship. Drug-using pals don’t want to lose a friend, but even more, they don’t want to stop using drugs.
• Your recovery holds up a mirror that shows them the reality of their lives – a vision they may not be ready or willing to see of themselves as an addict who needs help. They may be afraid that you’ll start preaching to them or rat them out to family, friends or law enforcement and put an end to their lifestyle.
• They have tried to quit unsuccessfully. It can be disheartening to see someone else succeed in what they can’t do so themselves.
• They don’t have a drug or alcohol problem, but want to continue to enjoy an occasional beer during a football game or glass of wine with dinner without worrying about their influence on you.
• A romantic partner or spouse may be concerned that your efforts to improve your life will lead to separation, divorce or finding someone else.